Crashing Into Goals
Words by Caitlin Dumas
Jokes were flying about how we were going to “Van Der Poel” the next day’s cyclocross race to see how far we could push ourselves. Ben, my husband, and I were meeting a teammate, Tony, to practice cyclocross laps keep our legs loose and work out pre-race jitters. Easy laps. In and out.
We went through the laps working technique and using the same route we had all season. I had just watched the women at Waterloo World Cup CX race and was determined to push myself. My head was, and is, my number one barrier. As I rode, I tried to let the energy from the motivation roll through my body.
“Let’s go, Cait,” I said to myself, “Stop being afraid. Just don’t shoulder a tree, that would f**king suck to race with tomorrow.”
One second I was up.
Next, I was on the ground with both bones in my forearm entirely broken. Definition of a “freak accident” according to my surgeon. To think, I had been concerned about shouldering a tree. *Insert eye roll emoji here*
I was crushed. Completely heartbroken. I had no doubt my arm was broken. Adrenaline and fear kept the pain away but was a catalyst for the thoughts in my head: “Where’s Ben and Tony?” “My mom is going to be so upset.” “If only I had decided to go to dinner with her instead.” “Why the hell did I convince myself to do this last lap?”
One thought stood out from the rest. “My season is done. My heart is breaking. I’ve never worked harder for anything before in my life, and now I’ve failed.”
Thankfully, my husband, who is the perfect calm to my crazy, understood my full-body sobbing into the ground wasn’t because of the pain in my arm, but my heart. He rubbed my back, told me I wasn’t a failure, and just let me use those moments to get all of my emotions out.
Writing this, I’m sitting almost six months post surgery trying to set goals for my 2018 season.
Goal setting is deeply ingrained in a lot of us. It’s a societal tradition to set new goals as the clock strikes midnight and rings in a new year. Whether we have our goals written down, use a detailed tracking system or just keep them in the back of our heads, we use goals to measure our success.
Inevitably, with goal setting, comes the fear of failing. I have found myself avoiding to set my 2018 goals. Have you ever been there? It’s this lie you tell yourself, “I don’t need to set goals. They’re not necessary. I mean, really, they just take all of the fun out of [insert activity here].” But in reality, I’m terrified of failing. Again.
My crash pulled me out of the season before I was able to reach the vast majority of my goals. An overwhelming sense of failure ate at me for months. I mean, deep down into my soul, ate at me.
Recently, my dad and coach asked me to set goals. I went from thinking, “I’m not setting goals this year. Being goal-oriented wrecked me last year, I still barely want to ride anymore, and I feel like a failure. It wasn’t even my fault I couldn’t reach them, so not happening, dad.” To crying (I’m an emotion-on-my-sleeves kind of woman) at my computer as I read these words from my dad:
“Goals are not a measure of success or failure; they’re a target pulling us into a desired state. Whether we achieve the measure is secondary to being pulled to that place which we desire.”
What I had done was put the importance of the goals on the literal goal. Viewing each goal as a pass/fail scenario and convincing myself that setting measurable goals put me in the wrong mindset to enjoy cycling.
I lost focus of my “desired state” which I want to get out of cycling. I didn’t fall in love with cycling to be the fastest or start racing to be on the top of the podium, but because of the strength, freedom, determination, and beauty, it brings to my life. Podiums and speed are a cherry on top of my “desired state” cake.
Sharing this story, I hope to encourage and inspire others to avoid determining their success as a checklist of goals. But instead, to allow your goals to set the path and determine the process of getting to your “desired state” with clarity.
Most importantly, I want others to realize, just because you may not check off every goal doesn’t mean you fail, never setting them does. We all have those “crashes” in life that get in the way of us achieving the goals we’ve set. They all suck. However, without goals, how do we know what steps we need to take to end up where we want to be?
Caitlin Dumas | Senior Editor
Caitlin is the co-founder of CycleNebraska and a board member of the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance. She rides road and gravel and is a competitive cyclocross racer. She is an avid advocate for women's cycling, bike infrastructure, and rescue animals.Connect with her on Instagram.